chris.beckham@gaflnews.com



TIFTON -- In the span of a few days, Hayward Fowler's vision and voice grew six times stronger.

For 15 years, Fowler's Fun Channel Three has been a popular stop for Tifton programming, reaching about 30,000 homes in the Tiftarea. But in the last three weeks, the little channel that could ... did. Mediacom executives were so impressed with Fowler's unique style and programming that they put him on cable systems across South Georgia. In two weeks, his viewership grew to 180,000 homes.

"We had wished for this kind of thing to happen in the back of our minds but we had no idea it would ever happen like this," Fowler said.

The Fun Channel is now seen in Valdosta, Cordele, Moultrie, Vienna, Ocilla, Fitzgerald, Ashburn, Willacoochee, Pearson, Adel, Nashville, Hahira, Lakeland and Ray City.

The expansion has changed the small, family-run business in numbers but not in focus, Fowler said. He is currently busy trying to fill several positions brought on by the expansion but said the channel's format will not change.

"We'll break it up into four quadrants with Tifton, Moultrie, Valdosta and Cordele having programming for their communities," he said. "Some things that will be of interest to everybody, we'll show to everybody like the Hometown Holidays Celebration or the Valdosta Christmas parade. This could be a great unifying regional development tool.

"We're bound to change some but we'll still be involved in the community," he added. "We can't be all things to everyone but we're not going to stray from what we've been doing all these years."

The Fun Channel, which Fowler said stands for "Fowler's Unusual Network", consists mostly of advertisements for local businesses and local events such as parades, proms, press conferences and even an occasional road trip by the Fowler family. But the channel will also switch quickly to live news and there is a weekly talk show each Thursday night.

"We've come a long way," he said. "I started in a tiny trailer in Kelltown when I was hired to do marketing with Channel 15. Gear was really expensive back then so I would stand outside the trailer and shoot an old Coca Cola thermometer when we did the weather. We have had our own weather radar and we'd film a map of the county and we had a water pistol off camera that we'd shoot water on it when it was raining."

Now, the upstairs portion of the Fun Channel office on 2nd Street is being renovated and Fowler said he plans to have sets for a local cooking show, an arts and crafts set, a new talk show set and possibly even a local variation of the PBS staple "Austin City Limits" featuring local musicians.

Fowler's affable personality and quick wit have served him well as he's filmed everything from high school dances to serious tragedies.

"I've even filmed the five-legged calf," he said. "I think people like it because it's easy to watch and just waiting to see who's coming up next. We haven't erased a tape since 1988 ... we've probably got around 11,000."

The channel's "must see" quality is what hooked a Mediacom national representative who told Fowler that he couldn't stop watching the channel whenever he was in Tifton.

"He said it gave him a real insight into the community," Fowler said.

Fowler is quick to credit his family, all of whom help keep the channel running. His wife Glenda performs a myriad of duties at the station while daughter Duran Moore also films and edits programming. His other daughter Megan Tanton worked at the channel for years and her husband Wayne has also now joined the channel during the expansion.

"My strength are my children and my wife," Fowler said. "Without their natural talents, it wouldn't work, plain and simple. We've trained ourselves but we kept learning and now we shoot pretty good and we edit pretty good."

Fowler said he hopes that one day, the channel will be available on cable systems throughout South Georgia. He strongly believes that the channel's relationship with viewers is the key to success and that, he said, won't cha





nge.

"We're pleasant folks, we don't crash parties or anything like that," he said. "When people trust you enough to let you put them on TV, they feel very comfortable with you. And that's what we want. We're a reflection of our community and people seem to like what we do."

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